10 Syd Barrett Facts That You Didn’t Know
1. Barrett tried to join a religious sect before achieving success as a musician.
In the summer of 1965, as Barrett took his first steps into the music world with an embryonic Pink Floyd, he also began using psychedelic drugs with friends in the Cambridge intellectual coterie. The introspection induced by LSD and other consciousness-expanding substances led many in his circle to convert to a sect of Sikhism known as Sant Mat (literally “Path of the Saints”). Dating back to 13th-century India, the religion follows a strict moral code and principles of abstinence. “A lot of people of Syd’s acquaintance were drawn quite hysterically, with massive enthusiasm, into it,” recalled David Gale, a close friend of Barrett’s, when interviewed by author Rob Chapman.
One by one, young bohemians of Cambridge made pilgrimages to India and returned profoundly changed. “[They] came back home, cut their hair off, threw away their hippie clothes, got suits, got a job, became vegetarians, stopped drinking, smoking and taking drugs, married women of the same persuasion as them, only had sex for procreative purposes, were advised to be ‘ordinary’ and to keep their heads down,” Gale continued.
Barrett, who was anything but “ordinary,” very nearly joined them. The 19-year-old traveled to a London hotel to become admitted by the sect’s leader, a guru called Maharaj Charan Singh Ji – known as “the Master” by devotees. “He asked the Master and the Master said, ‘I will not take an emotional request,’” says friend Andrew Rawlinson, a devout follower. “At that time it was very unusual for the Master to turn anybody down, but he did turn Syd down. He told him that his request to be initiated was emotional and not based on genuine spiritual research.”
By all accounts, the rejection crushed the young artist. Given Barrett’s future mental health struggles, a simple drug-free life of structure and meditation might have been the best thing for him. But regardless of whether such a conversion would have saved the man’s mind, it more than likely would have put a premature end to Syd Barrett: Rock Star.